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Hi Everyone!

I'm planning to pick up a 19' Wildwood travel trailer in Kallispel, MT this July and pull it to the Washington coast and travel south along the Pacific Coast Highway. At some point, around San Francisco area, I'll start going east. My final destination is Coastal Mississippi. I've never pulled a travel trailer. I know I will need to learn how to back up with it. I plan to stay at RV parks along the way so I know I'll need to reserve spots. I want to spend time in the National Parks as much as possible. I plan to be on the road for about 3 weeks.

Does anyone have any advice for me?

Jerry S
For starters: You're going to do this trip in JUST 3 weeks. Without even looking at a map, I have to believe it is at least a minimum of 4,000+ miles by the absolutely shortest route - and I would think it would easily end up well over 5,000 miles. That's a lot of miles in 3 weeks and really cuts down on your ability to stop anywhere for more than a day or two. Unless you do not plan to "stop and smell the roses" occasionally and/or don't mind spending 10-12 hours (5-600 miles) a day on the road more than a few times to make up for multi-day stops, you are planning a very exhausting trip.

For some folks, this kind of trip (5K miles in 3 weeks) may be easy. For others, this tight a schedule eliminates a lot of the R&R time we enjoy while traveling. Whether or not you can enjoy this trip depends on what you expect to acccomplish along the way.
I second that. I drove my RV 3000 miles one way last summer, and it took me a little over two weeks. About every third night, I stopped for TWO nights, just to get rested. If you are by yourself, you need to factor that in, not having a relief driver. Also, driving the 3,000 miles encompassed 4th of July, and I didn't have reservations, so I had to "hole up" anywhere I could to get through the holiday.

In a car, I can cover 500 miles in a day. But in an RV, what with all the packing up you have to do, I can only do 250-300 a day. Factor t hat in.

First I agree that this is an ambitious trip, but my calculations are a bit different.

Going from Kalispell to Seattle, down Hwy 101 to San Francisco, on down to either I-40 or I-10, and finally east to the Mississippi Coast, Streets and Trips actually figures the mileage closer to 3700-3750 mi depending on which route you take. If you divide 3750 by 21 days you get 178.5 mi as the distance you would have to travel per day. That is a very doable mileage. Many of us are comfortable traveling around 300 mi per day. If you divide 3750 by 300 you get 12.5 days driving leaving around 8.5 days for sightseeing. If the daily mileage is increased to 400 (again a doable daily distance) then it will take only about 9.5 days of driving leaving 11.5 days for sightseeing. This still crams a lot into a three week trip, but I can see that it is possible. (I sure hope I figured all that correctly.)

I guess one consideration is which national parks you want to see. You will start out by Glacier, and then if you take the most direct route (mentioned above) you will go by Mt Rainier, Olympic, and the Grand Canyon. However, if you go due east from San Francisco you will then also go by Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Death Valley. This takes you off the interstates but that may not be all bad.

My best advice is to decide how far you want to drive each day (JJ is correct that driving or towing an RV is very different from driving a car) and what places you want to see. Then you can plan a route that will take you by those places. Just remember to have some fun along the way. That's what RVing is all about.
Hi MarilynC,

Welcome to the wonderful world of Rv'ing.

I see you have not towed a trailer before. I'd listen carefully to what JJ has said--she has done a lot of solo travel. Jerry S. and Texasrv also offer some excellent advice.

Unfortunately none of the folks who have replied pull a travel trailer--Three of us are class C and one is Class A. That make's JJ's advice on "packing up" even more significant.

Is this a brand new trailer? If so I'd plan to camp near the dealership first for 2 or 3 days so that if there are faults, (there almost always are some) they can be corrected.

The trip, as planned, may be ambitious for a seasoned Rv'er. For someone learning the "craft" it may be too short on time, or too long on distance.

I've not driven the Pacific Coast Highway since I was a child. By its very nature it is beautiful. Part of that beauty is the way it follows the coast line--lots and lots and lots of turns. As wonderful as it is, I'd not pick it as a "maiden voyage" road.

It may be "slow going" to drive it. I don't want to discourage you from trying to take it--but it may be a bit scary for a "learning trip". If you allow extra time--you can slow down and enjoy it, rather than "white knuckling" it.

If you stay on the coast line as much as possible starting at Lincoln City here is a route

0.0 Kalispell

695.0 Lincoln City

1343.9 San Francisco

3703.9 Pascagoula

Driving distance: 3703.9 miles

This website:

may help you to find National Parks, State Parks and other Government run facilities along the way. I'd select them--then look them up on rvparkreviews to help me decide which ones are going to be the nicest. The website above has no commercial RV parks.

Another useful website is:

It features low cost or no cost camping locations. It can be quite fun to boondock and perhaps stay at a local small town campground.

When I'm on a long trip, I plan on one night per week in a "real" hotel. I love my RV--but tubs in motels have it "all over" the shower in most RV's. I also pick day 4 after a hotel stay for an "all meals in restaurants" day. It gives me a break from cooking.

There is one rule I try to always follow in my RV. It is "have fun"!

QUOTE(MarilynC @ Mar 8 2010, 02:02 PM) *

Hi Everyone!

I'm planning to pick up a 19' Wildwood travel trailer in Kallispel, MT this July and pull it to the Washington coast and travel south along the Pacific Coast Highway. At some point, around San Francisco area, I'll start going east. My final destination is Coastal Mississippi. I've never pulled a travel trailer. I know I will need to learn how to back up with it. I plan to stay at RV parks along the way so I know I'll need to reserve spots. I want to spend time in the National Parks as much as possible. I plan to be on the road for about 3 weeks.

Does anyone have any advice for me?


All good advice so far.

Be sure to follow your tow vehicle's recommendations on trailering, and that your transmission is up to the task. Your trailer is small, but if your vehicle is also, that may cause a problem. Follow their instructions on when you can leave it in Overdrive, when you have to down shift, how long to let it idle for a cool down afterwards, etc. Weight distribution hitch will help, as will sway bars. You will feel a big truck passing you even if you have that equipment - just be aware who is coming up behind you.

If you have the propane fridge running while you are on the road - pull over and turn it OFF before entering a gas station. Do not turn it back on until you have left the station. You can usually drive up to 6 hours with it off as long as it is full of cold stuff. Since it will be July, maybe only 3-4 hours.

Even though your trailer has brakes, leave some extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Be sure you have enough mirrors to see around - especially on the passenger side. The best way to learn how long your trailer is (for passing reasons) is to drive with the sun on the driver's side - in the passenger mirror you can the shadow on the road.

Backing is not too hard - put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, and turn it the direction you want the back end of the trailer to go.

Get some Clorox Wipes (or Lysol, anything for sanitizing). Use them to wipe off the water connections at your site (you never know how clean the last camper's hand were). Always hook up water first, sewer last. Always unhook water first, sewer last. Either wear plastic gloves during or lots of those wipes after doing anything with the sewer.

Have fun - sounds like a great trip.
WOW! Thanks to all who piped in for me. I love all the suggestions and advice. I have never taken on anything this ambitious before. But I'm not one to shy away from new adventures. I bought it in 2005 (new) in Kalispell for my son who was working up there for the summer. He only slept in it...never used the WC or cooked. So it's relatively new. It's been sitting at the RV lot where I bought it ever since. They've tried selling it for me but no one seems to want it. So, I figure if I'm paying for it, I might as well use it. Hence, my BIG TRIP!

I will have two other people with me to help drive so I'm not too worried about the timetable. I only worry that since this is it's (and mine) maiden voyage, I'll do something totally stupid.

I do want to see as much as I can but will map this out over the weekend to see just what I can do. I realize also that making reservations will be required.

Again, thanks all!
If it's been sitting that long in a lot in all the elements, you may want to double check those tires before you head out on such a long trip.
Welcome to the RV life, and to this website Marilyn!

It may have been said already, but as soon as the weather permits, hook up your trailer and take it for a couple trial runs in your area. Best thing ever for new rigs...and new RV'ers!

Cheers! cool.gif
I would even recommend staying the night in it at your house just to get a feel for what you'll need on the trip for yourself and for the camper.

It sounds like you're up for a big trip!
There's so much to see and enjoy all along your route.
Thought I'd chime in on the Kalispel to San Francisco portion. We did the reverse route last summer and took a month to do it - and we felt like we were pushing it! While you can cruise across Washington, driving the PCH along the coast is slow going. It's spectacular, though!
If you can, time your travel days through big cities, especially San Francisco, on weekends. And, those mileage numbers can be deceptive. For example, San Francisco to Reno may look like a simple 225 miles. But, after navigating your way out of the Bay Area, through Sacramento and up and over the Sierra Nevada, that can be one looooooooooong travel day!

Safe travels!
Florida Native
We were on the Pacific Coast Highway several years ago and I would never take an RV on it. Granted we are chickens. We were on CA 101 which runs parallel to the coast and took the toad over for day trips. Up in OR and WA we followed the coast. Be careful. We usually average about 100 miles a day and travel on average about every other day. Lots of good stuff to see in America and yu don't want to miss anything. Quality is better than quanity.
QUOTE(HappiestCamper @ Mar 10 2010, 11:10 AM) *

If it's been sitting that long in a lot in all the elements, you may want to double check those tires before you head out on such a long trip.

Actually, the RV dealer will have it completely ready for me to drive away.
Hi Marilyn,
We travel in a 37' Bounder, and have taken summer and fall trips for several years. I agree with campers posting above that 300 miles a day is plenty for an enjoyable trip. You don't want to feel like you're desperate to get anywhere in a set amount of time.

Also, if you are sharing the driving, find out if any of the co-drivers have sleep apnea or other factors which would lead to drowsy driving. It's no joke to nod off when you're driving, and absolutely terrifying when you're coming down the side of a mountain towing a trailer.

Learn how to turn the propane off and on. Learn how to light the oven. Learn how to hook up the water and connect the sewer lines, and how to reverse the process. If you have help, decide if you want them to direct you when you back up, and then practice the signals you'll use. Clean your windows and mirrors every time before you take off. Check your tire lugs and air pressure every day.

We have a check off list, and ask each other such simple stuff as: "Is the antenna down, and are the stairs up? Is the coffee pot secured, and are all the cupboard doors shut? Did we roll up and stow the rug, and put all the coffee cups back in the rig? Do we both have our wallets, purses, glasses, and is there some money where we can find it for tolls? Where are the kleenexes, and is there a new little trash bag up front?"

This takes much less time than you would think, and it takes a lot of the worry out of RV traveling. Best wishes for a wonderful, safe trip!
Hi Marilyn,

As HappiestCamper already suggested, do doublecheck the tires. After 5 years of just standing around they will look fine, but they are certainly dried out. A tire that just stands around actually gets older faster than a tire that is used regularly, but it doesn't show as the profile looks fine. I once used my spare tire that had been out in the elements for 5 years, and after a few hundred miles the rubber came off the belt while driving at 65 m/h, doing quite a bit of damage to the wheel housing of my trailer. At the place where I bought my new tire they explained to me that my original tire was a good quality tire, but by not using it the rubber compound wears out faster that by driving on it. Ever since I rotate the tires on my trailer twice a season. That's how you learn from mistakes!

I was a newbie last summer with my 35' TT and 2 little girls. We went all over the NorthEast and had a great time. DH stayed home to refinish the basement. So, as a newbie and a solo-mom, I can tell you that the unhook and rehook time and energy should not be underestimated. Even with as much pre-packing at night as possible, it still took over an hour to hitch up to the car and pull out of the campground. I'd estimate the same or more time to check into the campground in the afternoon. Since you really don't want to be doing all of that in the dark, you will want to get to the campground by around 4:00 in the afternoon. I think so many days of hitching up, driving 400 miles, and hooking up in a new spot is going to exhaust you. Even with two helpers. I found that those became restaurant nights because I was so whipped! And as others say, towing miles do not equal driving miles. I can drive 600 miles a day in a car, sure....towing? no way! You have to be super-focused the whole time. Then there's the jerking around on your car from the TT, which will give you a super headache! A windy day? Oh boy.

So, not to rain on your big plans, but maybe you could get another week into your vacation or revise your destination. It sounds like work...not a vacation.

You've gotten a lot of good advice here about lists, double-checking your steps, living in the TT for a few nights to make sure you are well-packed. The only thing I can add is to be friendly with your campground neighbors. They will have lots of good advice and ideas for you....if you are willing to ask for help. I can't tell you how much I learned in six weeks and 1000 miles this summer thanks to all the friendly folk.

Happy travels!
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